My Mom’s Fried Peas

I know I have expressed it on here before, but let me tell you all over again. I have a very fond and deep appreciation for peas! As I am sure I have told you before, my husband cannot stand them. I really wish he did’t have such a disposition to peas. On the other hand, when he is out for a work dinner, or is away for business, it gives me all the more reason to make some for myself. I indulge in their flavor and beauty and for a moment I feel sound and spoiled. It is definitely a good thing. So when Brian came home and said he had to take a business trip the following week, I was ecstatic. It was Pea Time! I started to think of all the ways I should and could make them…Spanish Pea Soup? Pasta and Peas? Pea Salad? It was right then that I had a strike of brilliance — Fried Peas!!!!

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This is a side dish my mom often made. It is super simple to make and was always a favorite of mine, of course. I could still hear her today calling up to my bedroom: “Danielle, I’m making fried peas with dinner. Can you set the table?” I would run down those stairs so fast, and hop into the kitchen to inhale the aroma of onions simmering in olive oil with a bit of red pepper flakes mixed in…heaven to my nose. I would set the table and watch as she would add the peas to the frying pan to sizzle with the onions. Once the peas were heated through and coated in the onion & olive oil mixture she would pour some red wine into the pan. The wine would bubble and fizz along with the peas and she would stir them frequently and as the wine would reduce, it would coat the peas. I would watch her cook the peas and some of them would start to shrivel a bit. She would add a sprinkle of salt in the end and it was ready.

It was not uncommon for my mom to make this on a weeknight, or even as part of a more formal Sunday dinner. It was often served alongside a steak or pork of some kind. We would have it with a tossed salad and most commonly mashed potatoes. I would always get a big serving of the peas since they were my favorite, and I loved the combo of the mashed potatoes with them. I was thinking of all of that as I made the fried peas for myself. I wish I had that meal in front of me, but for the time being it was fried peas and a salad…the mashed potatoes would have to wait. Sometimes people ask if I mind that Brian travels as often as he does. I think they are surprised when I tell them no, I get to eat peas! Some people may never understand, but that is their loss. Fried Peas for dinner – oh yes!!!!

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My Mom’s Fried Peas (serves 2 – 3)

2 cups of peas; fresh or frozen and thawed

1/4 cup of small chopped yellow onion

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/3 cup dry red wine

Sea Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First, place a frying pan (at least about 9 inches round) over medium / high heat. Once pan is heated through add the olive oil and let it warm though. Add the onion to the pan, stirring it frequently. You are looking for the onions to soften and become clear. Be sure to keep an eye on them as you do not want them to brown, you might need to adjust your heat lower if this occurs.

Next, add the crushed red pepper and your peas. Stir it all together. You are looking for the peas to soften a bit…If you are using fresh peas it may take awhile, if you are using previously frozen it will happen quickly.

Finally, once your peas are softened you can add the wine to your pan. Stirring your mixture frequently. Your peas might start to wrinkle or shrivel a bit, this is perfectly normal. Sprinkle them with some sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste and serve.

 

Afternoon Snacking with Aunt Fran

I came home after a stressful day last week. My brain hurt, and there was a part of me that wanted to veg out with some soothing music and a magazine. Then I noticed I was hungry and my tummy was on the verge of grumbling. I was now standing in my kitchen and without much thought I grabbed a few things out of the refrigerator and started chopping. I reached for a plate (again without much thought) and placed my food on it. I glanced down at it all and noticed I neatly arranged food in columns and a smile came across my face. There right in front of me was a plate from my childhood.

Aunt Fran (1933 - 2015)

Our Aunt Fran (1933 – 2015)

When my sister and I were little, and our mom was busy, it was not uncommon for our Aunt Fran to watch us. She would pick us up from school and walk with us to her home (The home we grew up in, our grammar school, and our Aunt Fran’s home was all in a 4 block radius). She would tell us to sit down and relax, while she would make us a snack. She would set each of us up with our own TV tray and on it she would place a plate with some cheese, pepperoni, crackers, and sometimes veggies or olives. The food would always be neatly cut and aligned in rows on our plate. My sister always got a glass of milk with her tray. I never did care for milk, and Aunt Fran would let me have a glass of soda.

We would watch TV, snack away, and chat with Aunt Fran about what we did at school. After we finished our snacks she would present us with a bowl of green grapes. We would squeal in delight, “GRAPES!” (Aunt Fran’s grapes were always the best.) They were consistently cold, crisp, and sweet. We would pop them in our mouths like they were candy. She then would see if we needed help with our home work and let us sprawl our books, pencils, and papers across her table. Our homework would be underway as Aunt Fran would start cooking her dinner, and like always she would invite us to stay and eat dinner with her and my uncle. But by then our mom would usually show up. We would pack up our stuff, kiss Aunt Fran good bye, and off to home we would go.

Looking down at this plate in front of me was just like the ones my Aunt Fran would make for us. Methodically placed rows of crackers, cheese, veggie meat, and celery. I admired it for a moment. I grabbed a tray I have and placed my plate on it and went and sat in front of my TV. It felt wonderful to sit and snack on my cheese and crackers. I nibbled and gave a lot of thought about how subconsciously I created something that instantly made me feel good. It soothed me in a way that only those afternoons with my Aunt Fran would. After the long and mentally draining day that had transpired I needed that. In some ways it was almost like my Aunt Fran was there with me. If only I would have had some grapes. This snack plate is just what I needed without knowing it. I wish my sister could have been here to share this with. I know she would have smiled seeing the plate of food and we could have shared stories about our Aunt Fran.

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Aunt Fran’s Afternoon Snack Plate

Crackers

Sliced Cheese

Sliced Pepperoni, Salami, or Veggie Deli Meat

Olives, Celery, or Carrots

Plating of this is easy and simple. You just need to be sure all of your cheese, meats, and veggies are evenly chopped. Align the like items in rows with spacing in between. You can mix and match your snacks as you eat and enjoy.

 

Cake Decapitation

There is a show on NPR called The Moth. (I must admit I love their pod casts. I sometimes listen to them in the kitchen in the mornings.) The Moth’s mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience. The Moth has live story slams in select cites across the country with themes. If you attend and want to tell a story you enter your name in a hat and see if you randomly get picked. This past week there was one held in Seattle and the theme was “Preassure”.  My husband and I attended and I entered my name with hopes to tell about the time I decapitated  a wedding cake. I was picked to tell my story first. It was so much fun and excitement. Below is the story I told, and the following is were you can link to learn more about The Moth.

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I am a pastry chef, and for 6 years I owned my own bakery and catering business. A part of that business was making wedding cakes (If you want to know about pressure….deal with people on their wedding day.) Now let me inform you that when it comes to making a wedding cake it is roughly a three day process. Day 1: You bake the cakes and then chill them overnight. Day 2: You fill the cakes and give them a base coating of icing, and chill them overnight. Day 3: The cake gets it’s final spreading of smooth icing, stacked, and decorated.

This one bride in particular requested a three tiered cake coated in buttercream, pearl border, and some delicate lattice and scroll piping; it looked really pretty. I had to be at the site of the reception in about 30 minutes to meet the florist, as she was going to give me flowers to place around the cake. I was also ahead of schedule as the delivery site was about 20 minutes away, so my husband and I put the cake in the back of the car and off we went.

I had a station wagon at the time to make deliveries and for some reason on this particular day I had the back seats down. I was driving no faster than 35 miles and hour, on the way reception site, and we approached a yellow light in an intersection of the road. I slowed to a stop, and from the back of the car I hear “SSHHHHHMM PUUNNT!” I looked at my husband, and he looks in the back of the car. I say to him, “It can’t be that bad.” He looks at me with his eyes so wide and a very shocked expression on his face and responds, “Oh! It is bad!” I turn and look. The cake was all the way behind our seats. The top tier of the cake was no longer there. It flipped upside down and was laying in the back of the car.

My car had one of those bars across the back seat that held a screen that you could pull across and latch to hide whatever you were storing in the back of it. I still had that in place with the seats down. Now, I really did not think this through because my cakes until now always stayed right in the back where I put them. But the slight jolt of the car stopping made the cake slide across the back of the car with the bar decapitated the top tier of the cake.

I quickly pulled into a 7/11 parking lot and climbed into the back of the car to assess the situation. It was then that I noticed that my husband put his jacked tucked into the back seat of the car. The button from his jacket was now touching and imprinted into the buttercream on the bottom tier of the cake. This is what made me flip out. I looked at him and sternly said; “What would posses you to put your jacket back here? Your button is in the buttercream!” He blankly looked at me responding; “This is the least of our problems right now.” He then quietly walked away. I got out of the car and said; “Okay, I will fix it. But we need to go back to the bakery.”

On our way back to the bakery, all I was thinking is “I have to do this as fast and neat as I possibly can.” As we turned the corner to the bakery I started shouting out to my husband: “I need an offset spatula, rubber gloves, two pipping bags, scissors, a dowel, buttercream, a container of hot water, and towels.” I climbed into the back of the car, removed the bar, and started to adjust the cake. I took the top tier and whipped off the buttercream. I reapplied fresh buttercream, placed it on top of the cake, fixed the area that the button indented, reapplied a pearl border, and hammered a dowel through the cake to keep it in place. I jumped back in the car and carefully yet quickly, drove back to the reception site.

We get the the reception, place the cake on the table, and the florist says to me, “I was wondering where you were.” I responded with: “Oh, we hit some traffic.” I start to reapply the pipping detail to the top of the cake to match the rest of it. I noticed that guests were now arriving to the reception and I’m still decorating the cake. I quickly applied the flowers around the wedding cake, and finally, I was done.

I walked away from the cake and feel my body turn to jello. I looked at my husband and I said to him: “I need you to drive me home. I just can’t right now.” So we get in the car and head home. I cried. I cried a lot, and then I finally laughed about it. I decided, if they are unhappy or dissatisfied with their cake I will just give them there money back. What else could I do?

Two weeks went by, and I received a Thank You note in the mail. It read: Thank you so much for our wedding cake. It was adored by many, and enjoyed by more! 

Corn Muffins

For the last month, possibly more, we have been on the go. We have been going at an active, non-stop pace. We had my parents visiting, we celebrated a big anniversary, we took a trip from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, and once we were back in the states it was time for me to change the menu at work. So needless to say things have been just a tad bit busy.

I woke up yesterday morning with a desire to do nothing! It was my day off – do you blame me? I was in a mood to do nothing more than watch back to back episodes of anything airing on the Investigate & Discovery Chanel. That is, nothing other than make a quick breakfast to munch on while I binge watch TV. I had a craving for corn muffins, and as I was whisking the ingredients together I realized I never shared a recipe for them on here. So that Is how I ended up here today.

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In my opinion a great corn muffin uses real corn meal. No box mix or corn flour in this recipe; and yes, most corn meals are a bit gritty. That is why it is important for these muffins you use a finely ground corn meal. It imparts a great flavor without feeling mealy or harsh. The third of a cup of sugar in this recipe enhances the corn’s natural sweetness too. Plus, the balance of milk and butter in these muffins keep the texture of these muffins moist and light, without being heavy or dense. A perfect corn muffin.

So, while we lounged watching rerun episodes of Dateline, we enjoyed warm corn muffins. It was so indulgent and enjoyable. I sipped tea while spreading butter and jam across my corn muffin as we tried to guess who was guilty or had motive in each of the episodes, and munch some more. It was glorious! Corn Muffin perfection and real life crime stories. Maybe the TV shows are not for everyone, but I am sure these muffins are.

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Corn Muffins (Makes 12)

1 cup corn meal (finely ground)

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup milk

3 oz butter, melted (plus more for the pan)

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. With a bit of extra butter, brush the inside of your muffing tin. You will need to butter at least a dozen of them.

Next, in a bowl place your flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk it together and set it aside. In another bowl, whisk together your egg, melted butter, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Add your dry ingredients. Lightly whisk it together until blended well. (You do not want to over mix this batter.)

Then, fill the buttered muffin pan evenly and place in the center of the oven. You are looking to bake your muffins about 20 – 25 minutes. You are looking for the muffins to be slightly golden, and lets a toothpick test cleanly when pierced.

Finally, remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 15 minutes before removing from pan. Serve and enjoy. (These are best when served warm.)

 

Fifteen years ago

 

Fifteen years ago I did something I never expected to do in my life. I married Brian. Some girls dream of their wedding day, but I was not one of those girls. I knew that Brian was the one that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But the whole pomps and circumstances that surround a wedding was not for me. The dress, the ring, the flowers – I could do without it all.

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This is a portrait of us that our friend Gabby made for us. She gave it to us at our rehearsal dinner.

But despite all of that; yes. We got engaged, and yes…we somewhat planned a wedding. Truth is our family did the majority of it all as they were terribly afraid that if they didn’t our wedding would never happen. And quite possibly it would not have. About two months before our wedding day (6-2-01) I was sitting in our apartment packing boxes as we were in the mist of moving into a home we just purchased. Brian and I were talking about little wedding details our parents were hounding us on when all of a sudden I felt like a huge hypocrite. I looked at him and said…”What are we doing? Why are we going through all of this? I never wanted any of this. All of this for one day is a bit insane. I cannot stand it.” The look that came over Brian’s face was pure terror. He was baffled and speechless for a moment and finally responded with, “Are you really saying you don’t want to get married now?!?”

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And just like that I knew I had to swallow my pride. I might have never fantasized about this one day, yet there was a part of Brian that did. I knew it right then and there. It was time for me to close my mouth and let the whole wedding ordeal take place. When all was said and done, it really was not that bad of a day. It was actually fun and I understood Brian’s point of view. It was possibly the one time when all of our family and friends were in one place just for us. They witnessed and celebrated us doing the one thing I said I would never do. I married the love of my life, my best friend, and the only one who I tell all my secrets and dreams to. By finally going through the whole wedding day I have one more special day of memories with him to share and that alone was worth it.

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So, for our fifteenth wedding anniversary I will recreate the first meal I ever cooked for Brian. One of the most simple pasta dishes there is. It has olives, capers, and bit of crushed red pepper flakes for some kick – Pasta Puttanesca. Brian loves it and always comments on the fact of when I said I was making dinner that evening for him (many, many years ago) he questioned where the jars of sauce were kept? He was quickly impressed when he learned I was making it from scratch…I hope after all this time I continue to impress him like that. Happy Anniversary Brian, thank you for putting up with me all these years! Thank you for the memories of our special day.

image4 Pasta Puttanesca (feeds 2 +)

**NOTES: I personally like the oil cured olives in this dish. (Those are the black wrinkly ones.) if you cannot find them feel free to use something like a Kalamata. Also, If you cannot find strained tomatoes, you can puree some whole ones in a can, at least 1 1/2 cups worth.

1 cup oil cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped

1 tbsp capers, drained

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

pinch of dried oregano

3 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cup strained tomatoes

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1/3 pound penne rigate pasta

Parmesan Cheese, for serving

First, place a large pot filled with salted water over high heat. Meanwhile, place a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once heated through add you olive oil and warm it up. To this you will add your crushed red pepper, olives, oregano, and garlic. Stir it all together and watch it carefully as you do not want to burn your garlic.

Next, once your garlic is fragrant (about one minute) add your tomatoes and about 1/2 cup of water. Stir it well and let it come to a simmer. Once simmering you can add your capers to your tomato mixture.Let it simmer gently…you may need to lower your heat a bit.

Then, when your pot of water should come to a boil add in your pasta. Stir it well, and cook it for as long as is indicated on the box, stirring it frequently. Once your pasta is done cooking strain it well.

Finally, add your pasta to your tomato sauce. Toss it well, while still simmering. Season it with sea salt and fresh black pepper and serve it with freshly grated parmesan.

 

 

Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

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Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake! Coconut Cake that is. I have been occupied with many other things lately. One of them being my parents were visiting for a while. We had a very impromptu dinner one evening. While I had no dessert planned, being it was so last minute, I walked over to a local bakery and purchased one of their famous coconut cream pies with confidence that my family would enjoy it.

Did they like it? Yes. Actually, they loved it. While they all enjoyed bite after bite, all I could think about was that coconut cake I made. A very moist coconut cake, layered with cream cheese icing, and sprinkled with sweetened shredded coconut. The coconut cake I promised in my last entry here that I would tell you all about and pass along the recipe. At that moment the cake was dominating my mind and I was racked with guilt for not getting to this point sooner to tell you all about Coconut Cake!!!

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Now, I have made many cakes in my day and I have tried a few different recipes for coconut ones. In all my trials, and taste testing of cakes I was never truly satisfied. There was a part of me that knew it could be better. So one day a dragged out all the recipes I previously tried. I looked them over carefully comparing each of them. I jotted down my notes on it all and then formed this recipe. Headed into the kitchen, mixed up my cake and baked it off. I let the cake cool overnight, and the following day I fitted it with all it’s fixings. When the cake was complete we sliced away and served it up. We had one slice of layered coconut cake a piece and enjoyed it with tea. To be extra sure of this recipe we each indulged in another slice. That second one we both agreed was as good as the first.

I cut the remaining cake in half and wrapped each half up. We each took a half with us to work the following day. My fellow cooks in the kitchen were very gracious in their compliments. and it was gone before the morning shift was in full swing. Brian said his half was quickly gone at his office and some asked for the recipe. This is usually the gratification I need when testing a recipe. It is one thing for you to be satisfied with something you make, but it is a whole other thing when fellow cooks are fighting over the last little piece. When more than one person asks you for the recipe you know its great! I guess you can say I am now satisfied with my coconut cake recipe. I just wish I had some to serve my family in place of that coconut cream pie. I guess there is always next time.

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Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing (makes one 8 – 9 inch cake, feeds 12+)

Cake

12 oz (1 1/2 cups) coconut oil, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp almond extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup coconut milk

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place your coconut oil and sugar. Mix together until fluffy and well combined. Add your eggs one at a time, be sure each one is well mixed in and scrape down the bowl with a spatula in-between each addition. Once eggs are added stir in your extracts.

Next, in a bowl place your flour, shredded coconut, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk it together. Add this mixture in thirds, alternating it with your coconut milk. You want to slowly combine your flour mix it to your egg mixture, once all is combined add the coconut milk and combine. Repeat this until all your batter is well combined.

Then, prepare your 8 – 9 inch baking pan. I like to brush the pan down with oil and line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle a bit of flour along the sides of the pan tapping out the excess. Pour your batter into the prepared pan smoothing out the top. Place in the center of your oven and bake about an hour (rotating it half way though). Remove from the oven when a knife is inserted into the center of the cake and tests cleanly.

Finally, you can eat the cake as is if you like, but it is best to allow the cake to cool to room temperature before wrapping the cake in plastic and placing the cake in the refrigerator overnight. Chilling the cake like this allows the cake to pop out of the pan cleanly and slice neatly for filling and icing.

Cream Cheese Icing (more than enough for one cake)

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

8 oz butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut milk or regular milk as needed

First, place your cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on a medium speed until it is well combined. You can stir in the extract at this time.

Then, on a very low speed, slowly add the powdered sugar until all is combined and fluffy. Add a bit of coconut or regular milk (a tablespoon at a time) until you achieve the smoothing, spreadability you desire. Set aside to assemble.

Cake Assembly 

1 Coconut Cake (recipe above)

1 batch of Cream Cheese Icing, at room temperature (recipe above)

2 cups (plus more if needed) of sweetened shredded coconut

Fresh Flowers (optional)

First, remove your cake from the pan and peel away the parchment paper. Carefully slice the cake horizontally into three even pieces.

Next, place the bottom layer of your cake onto your serving plate. Scoop a portion of your cream cheese icing onto it and evenly spread it out to the edges. Top your icing with the next layer of cake and repeat. You will end up with three layers of cake and two layers of cream cheese icing.

Then, gently spread the top and sides of your cake with the remaining cream cheese icing. Be sure to coat the cake evenly and as smoothly as possible. (It is okay if you so not use all of your cream cheese icing.)

Finally, wipe your plate clean of any cake crumbs or icing that may have dripped. Gently, with your hands, scoop the sweetened shredded coconut onto the cake lightly pressing it into the icing to stick. Continue this until the whole cake is coated. You can serve it like this if you wish. If you desire you can also top the cake with fresh flowers as you feel fit. I like to use a bit of the left over icing to help hold the flowers in place. Serve the cake at room temperature. Can be refrigerated and stored up to four days.

 

Garbanzo Bean Salad

Hello there. It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’m sorry it has taken a while to get back around to here. There is no excuse really. I have been doing lots of cooking, experimenting, and baking in my kitchen. With all of that I have had no time to sit with my computer and tell you all about it.

The other week I was so gung ho to write you about a cake I made….and within minutes I was asleep on the couch with the computer on my lap. I had gone to a Zumba class earlier that evening, I guess you can say it took all my energy. But I will write you about the cake next time. No cake today. Today I want to tell you about a garbanzo bean salad.

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I know you are probably questioning how I went from cake to salad??? Maybe that Zumba class is to blame? Something healthy verses sugar and sweetness!?! Healthy or not this salad is delicious and that is what counts in my book. A garbanzo bean salad is great to whip up on these warm spring days. Tossed together without much fuss, devoured in minutes, and satisfying to your taste buds. The beauty of a salad like this one is that it can be made ahead of time. It develops more flavor as it sits together, and it is one of those things that can be doubled easily and be brought to a BBQ or picnic and holds up to warmer temperatures.

I have been making a salad similar to this since I was in my teens. I use to have a subscription to a teen magazine when I was young. I cannot remember if it was YM or Seventeen; either way, and not surprisingly, my favorite part of the magazine were the recipes they sometimes featured in the back of it. There was a recipe for a garbanzo bean salad that I showed to my mom and we made it. My family loved it and it became a family staple in the warmer months. Over time, like most recipes, I have tweaked it a bit. What can I say? Time, like taste buds, change. Below is the way I enjoy it the best. The different textures, favors, and light dressing will compliment just about any meal. I hope you give it a try. In the meantime I will get back into a grove of writing…I promise, that cake recipe will be up next time.

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Garbanzo Bean Salad (feeds 4-6)

1 (15oz) can of Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, chopped small (seeds and core removed)

1/2 cup red onion, chopped small

1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed small

1 1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

First, place your garbanzos, bell pepper, red onion, and mozzarella in your serving dish. Sprinkle your olive oil and red wine vinegar over it all and toss it well. Sprinkle it all with a bit of sea salt and black pepper and toss again. Cover with some plastic wrap and chill at least and hour. You are looking for the flavors to mingle and marinate a bit together.

Next, remove your salad from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before eating. Sprinkle the lettuce over it all. Toss again and set aside until ready to eat.

Finally, before eating, season it again with sea salt and fresh black pepper if needed.

 

Sweet Potato Pancakes

It is not uncommon for me to keep a few russet or sweet potatoes around for an easy dinner. Toss them in the oven to bake, serve them with a large salad and dinner is done! Not a lot of fuss, besides the fact that we find it really comforting to eat. We truly enjoy it and look forward to it’s simplicity.

I personally prefer a sweet potato over that of a russet. I love the taste and texture of one when it has been roasted whole. But did you know that a sweet potato has loads of heath benefits in them? Sweet potatoes are extremely high in vitamins and minerals! They contribute to healthier immune systems and contain high levels of magnesium – this supports anti stress while aiding in relaxation…Yes! I will take that any given day. Who wouldn’t want added vitamins and reduced stress by eating something delicious?

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The other night I baked the sweet potatoes we had for dinner, and as luck should have it we had one left over. I wrapped and placed it in the refrigerator with the thoughts of enjoying the left over for lunch one day that week. But then I remembered a place we use to go to for brunch many years ago. On their menu: Sweet Potato Pancakes! I loved them, and when I really felt like indulging I would order them. They were light and fluffy pancakes, not too sweet; and were ultimately satisfying. I had to make something like them for breakfast. I missed those pancakes and it was the perfect use for my left over sweet potato.

Early on my morning off I headed into my kitchen. I mashed the sweet potato, made a batter that incorporated it, and gently sizzled the batter in a bit of butter and oil. I find that the combo of butter and oil lets the pancakes get a nice sear without the any scorching or burning the pancakes themselves. I also found that these pancakes need a moment or two longer cooking because the batter is so moist. In doing this it lets them firm up more as they simmer allowing the pancake set up…the first two I cooked off had a bit “custard quality” that I don’t really look for when desiring something like a pancake. But once they were finally done cooking we piled them on our plates topping them with butter and real maple syrup. I kid you not when I tell you we nibbled away and enjoyed every bit. The Sweet Potato Pancakes were indulgent and lightly sweet. They were light, with a bit of crunch along their edges. They made the perfect breakfast as far as I am concerned. Being that they were so easy to whip up and how healthy a sweet potato is these pancakes might be dangerous, I can all to easily see us indulging in them all too often! Yum!

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Sweet Potato Pancakes (serves 4)

1 1/2 cups mashed skinless sweet potato (previously baked or boiled)

1 oz butter, melted (plus extra for cooking and serving)

3/4 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten

1 cup flour

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

real maple syrup (for serving)

vegetable oil

First; in a bowl whisk together your milk, yogurt, vanilla extract, egg, and melted butter. In a separate bowl mix together your flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and sugar.

Next; whisk in your mashed sweet potato into your yogurt mix. Mix until it is smooth and evenly incorporated. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the sweet potato mix and easily mix it together until the mixture is cohesive.

Then; place a large frying pan or non stick pan (your preference) over medium heat. Place a bit of butter and no more than 2 tbsp of oil into the pan and heat through until butter is melted into the oil. Spoon or ladle your sweet potato mixture into the prepared pan. Gently edge the batter to spread evenly into a round shape to form your pancake. You can place a few pancakes at a time into your pan, be carful not to crowd the pan leaving about a 1-2 inch border around them. Once the edges of the pancakes seem firm and the batter seems to bubble around the edges easily flip the pancake with a spatula and let the pancakes sear and simmer on the other side.

Finally; when the pancakes are seared and firm on both sides you can remove them and place them on a plate to rest until serving. Repeat with the remaining batter. Be sure that there is always a bit of butter and oil in the pan while adding your pancake batter. Serve when pancakes are done cooking with plenty of butter and maple syrup.

 

Spring Herb Sugar Snap Peas

Spring is here. As I write I am sitting in a sun beam from my living room window. It feels so good to have sunlight warming my skin. As much as I love a cozy sweater and blanket, I aspire for warm afternoon rays and no jackets needed. All this warmth and spring feels like a dish of sugar snap peas I made just last week. When I passed by the market on my way home after work the salesman pointed out to me that the sugar snap peas were just in. At one glance I could see that they were plump and their skin had that new green vibrancy about them that you naturally only see about now in nature. I love that color, and I love sugar snap peas! I filled a bag of them along with some herbs and headed home.

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Now I am sure most people eat raw sugar snap peas in a veggie and dip platter. I too have enjoyed them like that, but to limit them in this single way is a bit offensive. There are a multitude of ways to serve a sugar snap pea. I like to toss them into stews and stir-fries, I snack on them raw, and I have on occasion thinly sliced them and tossed them in a chopped salad. But my most favorite way to make them is quickly sauté them in a bit of olive oil. Just enough so that the outside of the sugar snap pea sears, but it’s texture keeps it’s integrity.

Now you can serve the sugar snap peas just like this, or you can compliment them. Seasoning and pairing food with other items from the same growing season is not only your safest bet, but a beautiful one. So with these sugar snap peas, I tossed them with some herb oil I made from herbs that were fresh from a nearby farm and really bright in flavor. The handful of chives, parsley, dill, and marjoram that I finely chopped and tossed in some olive oil will brighten up any dish. As the sugar snap peas were done searing I added a bit of the fresh herb oil to the pan and tossed it all together.  I then dropped in a few spoonfuls of fresh ricotta cheese and sprinkled it with sea salt to taste before I served it up. It tasted bright — just like spring was popping in your mouth. We ate it as a little appetizer just before dinner was ready; but this serves up just as well as a side dish too. Give it a try and see what spring tastes like. I hope I can still get some sugar snap peas that are as plump and fresh like these were. This was so tasty I would love another serving.

Spring Herb Sugar Snap Peas (serves 2 – 4)

3 – 4 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup (packed) fresh herbs (I used a mix of parsley, dill, chives, and marjoram)

1/4 cup fresh ricotta

sea salt to taste

First, place your herbs on a cutting board and roughly, yet finely chop your herbs. Place them in a bowl and pour about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of olive oil over it and stir well. Set is aside.

Next, heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Once heated through add in about 2 – 3 tbsp of olive oil. Once the olive oil is heated through toss in your sugar snap peas. Let them sizzle and sear a bit. Give them a gentle toss until all the sugar snap peas are gently seared and heated through. (About 5 minutes.)

Then, remove from the heat and spoon a bit of the herb oil over your sugar snap peas at a time. Toss them gently until they are all well coated together. Once the herb oil is coating the sugar snap peas add your ricotta a small spoonful at a time.

Finally, place the sugar snap peas on your serving platter carefully without breaking up the ricotta too much. Sprinkle it with sea salt to taste and serve.

 

Margarita Tart

“Do you like it here? I mean, don’t you miss the sunshine and warmth of Phoenix?” This is something that I have been asked lately. Funny how that is. Maybe it is because we have experienced an umpteenth cloudy and rain filled days. I have been asked this multiple times in the last two months. It is usually followed up with, “Do you think you will ever go into business again for yourself?” I am coming upon my sixth anniversary of moving here and these two question seem like they are on repeat in my life right now.

Rainy and damp city streets of Seattle

Rainy and damp city streets of Seattle

I can quickly answered both of those questions. First: No, I do not miss the sunshine of Phoenix or the dry air. I truly enjoy experiencing the mild changing of seasons we posses here. I find living near the water, mountains, trees, and city life in Seattle extremely refreshing. The rain only makes me appreciate the bounty that grows here, not to mention it makes me look forard to the sunshine and beautiful days here to come. Second: I do not have any desire to go into business for myself ever again. I enjoy going to work, and coming home. I like having two separate spaces in my life. When I owned my own bakery and catering business it seemed as though they were never two separate things (work / personal life) I ate, slept, dreamed, breathed, and lived my business. They were never two separate things and it was hard to decompress, relax, and was inhabiting my health. Starting over again here in Seattle after closing it all was hard (and a bit depressing I will admit), but I slept a sound and peaceful full night for the first time in years after I moved here.

Although, with these questions about my life and business in Phoenix have made me miss some things. I miss the friends we made there. In the past six years many of them have experienced milestones that I hate missing and not being a part of. All of these questions about the business have made me reflect on many of the recipes I made daily at my bakery. Some I could care less to ever make again, some carry stigma / tension that I do not want to revisit, and some are fun to make on a rare occasion. Something… like a Margarita Tart.

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I designed this recipe after a friend from New Jersey referred to our move to Phoenix as “moving to the land of margaritas”! This tart has a crunchy, all butter crust, with a lime and tequila curd laying over it. The rim of the crust gets salted like the rim of a margarita glass, and I always garnished the tart with a fresh slice of lime. To some the whole concept of this dessert may have seemed strange, but from the many who would try it fell in love with it. This dessert cures the sweet / sour caving that many have and I’m sure the salted rim may seem out of place in a dessert to many, but in this case it rounds out the flavor and really finishes this dessert well. I made this tart last week. It was a good reflection of everything we have experienced and where we came from. In some ways it reminded me who I was. Sometimes a good drink or sweet is all you need for that. In this case it is a combination of them both.

Slice of Margarita Tart

Slice of Margarita Tart

Margarita Tart (Feeds 8+)

-Makes one 9 inch tart-

Curd

1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed

1/4 cup tequila

7 yolks

1 cup sugar

6 oz butter (unsalted), cold and cut into 3 – 4 pieces

zest of 2 limes, finely grated

Sea Salt for trimming the rim

1 whole lime slice for garnish

1 fully baked tart crust (recipe follows)

First; place your yolks and sugar in a pan (at least 8 inches in diameter) and whisk it well and smooth. Pour in the lime juice and tequila and whisk it together until incorporated.

Next; place the butter into the mixture and place the whole thing over medium to low heat. Stirring it constantly with a silicon spatula scraping the bottom and sides of the pan while doing so. You will notice that you butter will slowly melt into you mixture, and then you will see your mixture start to thicken. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a trail in the pan while stirring  you are done.

Then; remove the pot from the stove and strain the mixture though a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard any solids that would not pass through the mesh strainer. Stir in the lime zest into the lime and tequila curd until well combined. Pour the curd into your baked tart crust. Shake gently to be sure it is well distributed and place in the refrigerator to chill and set. (At least 1 hour but over night works well too.)

Finally; remove the tart from the tart pan carefully. Place on the platter or plate that you wish to serve it on. Sprinkle the edge of your tart with the sea salt much like the rim of a margarita glass would be coated. Place your lime slice to garnish as you wish and serve, Serve chilled. Will last for up to 3 days, if kept refrigerated.

Crust

1 1/4 cup flour

1 tsp of sugar

pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces and placed in freezer for at least 20 minutes before using

1/4 cup ice water (more or less)

First; place the flour, sugar, and sea salt in the base of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.

Next; place the well chilled butter chunks over the flour mixture and pulse your blade until the butter is chopped into very fine pieces. Once that is achieved add your ice water a tablespoon at a time with the blade running until the dough seems to come together. It should hold together tightly when pinched – that is how you know it ready. I always test after 2 tablespoons of water have been incorporated.

Then; roll the dough into a ball and on a well floured surface roll out your dough to about 1/4 inch thick keeping it round in shape. Place the rolled out dough into your 9 inch tart pan. Press it into place (carefully paying attention and pressing to the corner of the rim of your pan to keep an angle) and trim your edges as needed with a sharp knife. Dock the dough several times with a fork and place the entire dough and pan into the freezer to chill and set. About an hour.

Finally; preheat your oven to 375 degrees. When heated place your chilled dough lined tart pan on a sheet pan. Line the tart crust with parchment paper (I let mine over hang the sides by at least and inch) and fill with pie weights (I use dried beans or rice I do not want to use for cooking). This is to hold your parchment down and keep your crust from puffing while baking.  Bake about 30 – 40 minutes before removing from the oven. Gently remove the parchment with your weights off the dough and place the tart dough back in the oven for another 20 minutes or more. You are looking for the crust to have a deeply golden color. Remove from oven and let cool completely before continuing.

 

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